Amazon recently introduced its Kindle in France. Can a French (digital) revolution be far behind?
At a party in Paris the other night, the conversation turned away from politics for a while (thankfully) during this presidential election year on both sides of the Atlantic and toward books. In particular, e-books.
Interestingly, the talk was similar to what I’d heard not too long ago in the U.S., when people would speak about how they hoped that so-called “real” books wouldn’t disappear as digital editions took hold.
One of the couples with whom I spoke had recently visited New York, and they were impressed by how many people on the subway were absorbed in their e-readers. They wondered if the same would be true in France, if e-readers took hold (in Paris, and doubtless elsewhere, people read while taking public transportation).
France is a country where books are respected, as are writers. Everyone, it seems, has written at least one book. Sales aren’t quite those one would see in the U.S. for even top-selling books (with rare exceptions), but books are important. As they should be.
But the talk about e-books versus “real” books revealed a similar misunderstanding about what constitutes a book. It’s the content, not the cover. People have a sentimental attachment to the physical paper, when what they really remember is having read something that touched or inspired them: they substitute the artifact for the ideas. People don’t remember beloved books simply for the crinkly paper, or the spine or the cover art: they remember what the author wrote.
Still, for me, this was a worthy conversation, because it showed how much the written word, in whatever form, means to people. The idea of building a digital platform isn’t really known here in France, unlike in America, where more people are comfortable trying to build a platform to spread their message.
But that’s likely to change as digital books (or, in French, des livres numÃ©riques) become more common.
Who knows? But once the digital door has been opened, it’s hard to close.
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